Social Partnership: An Organizing Concept for Industrial Relations Reform

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[Excerpt] In this era of globalization and intensified world market competition, once stable relationships involving firms, unions and government have come under pressure everywhere. Here in the United States, a crisis of economic competitiveness, industrial relations instability, and union decline has generated a new openness to reform efforts, including a widespread willingness to learn from the successful practices of both domestic innovators and foreign competitors. Employers, for example, have increasingly moved to adopt "lean" and high-quality-oriented forms of organization as well as new participatory programs for employees. Unions have shown increasing interest in getting involved and providing input into the establishment and operation of such innovations. A new government wants to reform labor law to facilitate workplace change and labor-management cooperation. We still lack, however, broad concepts to inform a package of meaningful industrial relations and labor law reform. In this paper, I argue that social partnership, borrowed from the European Community, Germany, and numerous other societies, if adapted to particular American circumstances, is an ideal concept around which to organize and synthesize industrial relations reform in the United States.

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1994-06-01
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social partnership; industrial relations; reform; organization; unions; employer associations
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Required Publisher Statement: © AFL-CIO. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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